What to Expect From FAST in 2022

FAST 2022 Predictions
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+; Adobe Stock

In this article

  • 2022 will mark the final year of significant growth in new FAST services being launched
  • The transformation of FAST will continue with more Big Media-branded channels entering the market
  • FAST services will seek to differentiate themselves by creating channels based on AVOD originals
  • News will become an increasingly important part of FAST lineups

2021 was the year when FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) established itself as a viable viewing format. (See VIP+’s “Life in the F.A.S.T. Lane” special report.)

The number of available channels and FAST platforms surged to record highs as more and more media companies decided to embrace linear streaming.

This growth should come to an end in 2022 as the FAST provider market becomes saturated. Expect MVPDs and VMVPDs to incorporate FAST channels into their EPGs in order to boost channel lineups.

Should Google’s Chromecast include FAST, as it's reported to be doing, it wouldn’t be a bad bet to imagine Apple launching its own FAST service as it would be the sole major connected device without a native service and the revenue streams from advertising that they bring.

It’s for that reason — new revenue — we expect to see more of another trend in 2022: Big Media-branded channels. The likes of ViacomCBS, AMC Networks, Fox, NBCUniversal, BBC and A&E Networks operate FAST channels that retain linkage to TV networks —AMC Thrillers, CNBC Ka-Ching, Fox Soul, BET Pluto TV — but others are only just beginning to dabble in FAST, with the likes of WarnerMedia, Discovery and Disney offering few, if any channels.

Data provided exclusively to Variety VIP+ by leading FAST channel creator Wurl illustrates why it’s in every major media company’s interest to launch a fleet of FAST networks. Wurl’s data shows performance across key metrics such as viewing time, audience and ad revenue on the channels of five major studios (including big TV networks).

The results show that, two years from launch, large channels saw an average increase of 280% in monthly viewing time and an increase of 208% in monthly average viewers. Even more critical, the average large FAST studio took home $23.2 million in ad revenue by the end of the second year after launch, meaning not launching a FAST network or service is leaving money on the table.

With increased competition in services offering FAST, a key to attracting and retaining viewers will be exclusive content. This is where platforms owned by Big Media — Pluto (ViacomCBS), Peacock (NBCUniversal) and Tubi (Fox) — should have an advantage as rights to shows they produce can appear on exclusive FAST channels.

There is another front in the battle for exclusive FAST content. IMDb TV, Roku Channel and Tubi all released original content in 2021 via AVOD, with VIP+ understanding that these originals tended to perform very strongly and provided considerable returns on initial investments. Seeing FAST channels created from this content is the next logical step and one that will help to differentiate these services from rivals.

The final element to expect from FAST in 2022 is an uptick in national and local news channels and audiences to trend upward as a result. In fairness, many FAST news channels have considerably upped their game from 2019, when they were mainly clip-based and would recycle headlines days later (including a memorable episode when NBC News Now reported that the Notre Dame Cathedral had just caught fire a day after the event).

There are a considerable number of national news channels offering livestreams, with the best-in-class honors for production values and on-screen talent (as opposed to replaying press conferences in full and not featuring as much exclusive reporting) going to CBSN, BNC Go and NBC News Now. Seeing other channels invest to match these efforts is a trend to anticipate.

Local news stations have embraced FAST as a means to stay relevant and reach audiences who don’t watch traditional TV, an issue VIP+ highlighted in September 2021. Over half of 18-34s say they are aware there are local news FAST channels, suggesting that the embrace of the format by Amazon’s News by Fire TV, Tubi, Haystack News and STIRR is paying off.

Local news on FAST will be a format that expands in 2022, as some media companies lean into the idea of making content accessible everywhere in order to maintain the greatest possible audience reach. They also offer another way for FAST services to offer exclusivity; expect some channels to be carried by only one or two providers.